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Farrer & Co | Queen’s Speech – employment revelations (spoiler alert: they’re pretty brief)

By now, you will be aware that the Queen's Speech was (understandably given the state of politics at the minute) fairly stripped back and Brexit dominated. That doesn't mean, however, that it was entirely devoid of relevance to the world of work. Yes, its references to employment matters were vague and brief, but it's worth looking at the few things it did say:

• One of the most significant things for employment practitioners is the promise that "Ministers will seek to enhance rights and protections in the modern workplace" – a reference to the Matthew Taylor Review of Employment Practices, expected "shortly". On the one hand, the apparent emphasis placed on the Review by the Queen's Speech gives us the strongest indication yet that the Government intends to act on its recommendations. However, without any actual legislation planned to implement these recommendations (workers' rights are listed as "non-legislative" in the Government's Briefing), it is questionable quite what impact they will have.

• A sweeping statement to "make further progress" in tackling discrimination and the gender pay gap similarly comes under the "non-legislative banner". While the Government's Briefing sets out what the Government has done previously in this area, it provides us with no real information about its future plans. Inexplicably, the Speech only makes reference to five out of the nine protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act (age and pregnancy, amongst others, are left out). This is rather baffling and the significance, if any, is unclear.

• The Government's Briefing also makes reference to employers fulfilling their responsibilities effectively with respect to mental ill health. Again, a somewhat woolly pledge lacking in detail, but keep an eye out for "recommendations" in this area.

• More concrete is the Government's intention to increase the National Living Wage to 60% of median earnings by 2020, with further increases thereafter.

• A new law on data protection is promised, to ensure "a world-class regime for protecting personal data", though quite what form this will take (whether the GDPR or otherwise) is not yet clear.

• In respect of Brexit, where possible the Government intends that "the same rules and laws [will] apply after exit". So, in the short term at least, do not expect any changes to current EU laws on workers' rights or employers' duties.

So, all in all, no real surprises or omissions and no real detail. As with so many things, it really is a matter of watch this space and - like the election result itself – I, for one, shall be prepared to expect the unexpected.

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